History of Georgia

Article Index

David the Builder spared no effort to strengthen the country, and his constructive activity was crowned with success: Georgia gained strength. The king increased his troops, drove the remaining Seljuks out of Georgia and stopped paying them the tribute.
In 1104 David the Builder incorporated Hereti and Kakheti into the now united Georgia. The Seljuk Turks did not relish losing a tributary, therefore the atabeg of Ganja, a man close to the Sultan, hurriedly sent an army to Georgia in order to eject King David from Hereti and Kartli (Iberia). The fully armed king met the enemy. The battle took place in 1104 near Ertsukhi, where the Georgians were victorious and King David displayed great courage.
The Georgian Crown set itself the task of recovering the cities, captured by the Seljuks: Tbilisi, Rustavi, Samshvildh and others.
But first it was necessary to solve the problem of the Georgian Church. The point at issue was that the Church at the moment was in opposition to the Crown, and it was of paramount importance to take decisive measures in the spiritual sphere. The Georgian Church was a major feudal organization in the Middle Ages. It had a period of particular ascendancy in the 11th century, when, coming into possession of vast land holdings, it acquired immunity and turned into something like a state within a state. Beginning with the 10th century high church offices began to fall into the hands of unworthy men. This is, incidentally, attested by the historian of David the Builder. The Church supported independently-minded feudal lords in their craving to be kings in their domains. In order to strengthen the central power the Georgian royal court challenged the reactionary church aristocracy. The first step in this direction was the Ruisi-Urbnisi Church Council, at which the stand of King David and his supporters prevailed and decisions were taken that radically changed the activities of the Church.
Henceforward big feudal lords began to lose their ecclesiastic allies. King David's reform was supported by broad sections of the population, the administration in Georgia becoming strong and centralized. In the first quarter of the 12th century of great importance was the merger of the office of Chqondideli ("Archbishop of Chqondidi") with that of Mtsignobartukhutsesi (literally: "chief of the scribes") -chief adviser to the King on all problems of state, and the institution of the joint office of Chqondideli-Mtsignobartukhutsesi. This dealt a blow on the upper hierarchy of the Church, that had gone too far, leaving it with no other choice but to bow to the Crown. All this created favorable conditions for fighting both external and internal enemies.
The historical development of the state organization of feudal Georgia and the creation of the institution of Chqondideli-Mtsignobartukhutsesi were organically interlinked. Hence "monasteries and bishoprics and every church will receive rules and canons for conducting the divine service and all church regulations from the darbazis-kari as indisputable law - most beautiful, reasonable and respectable in divine service and fasting" ("Kartli (Iberia)s Tskhovreba").
Final liberation of Georgia from the Seljuk Turks called for the expulsion of the latter from their footholds in the Transcaucasus: from Shirvan and Ran in the east and from Armenia in the South.
King David the Builder carried out an extraordinary military reform, introducing strict discipline which strengthened the sense of doing one's duty without fail. Special attention was devoted to good training of the troops and introducing definite changes in the existing regulations.
To ensure quick movement King David increased the number of troops and cavalry detachments; he changed the strategy and tactics of warfare. The King especially favored the stratagem of luring the enemy into an ambush and effecting a surprise attack.
Part of the Georgian army still depended upon big feudal lords, their will and wishes, and their relations with the king. At the same time incessant wars kept the most  productive part of the population away from home and farming. The country's power depended not only on the organization of the army, but on economic regeneration as well. In view of this the need arose for creating an army of non-local population. The Crown settled some 40,000 families of the Polovtsy on Georgian territory. Presently they became integrated into the local feudal relations and each family gave one warrior, creating an army of 40,000 men. In this way King David sought to maximally limit the political rights of the feudal lords and to strengthen the royal authority. The settlement of the Polovtsy in Georgia in 1118-1120 and the creation of a standing army recruited from them made the king practically independent of Georgian feudal lords and strengthened the country as a whole.
David the Builder gradually annexed the cities of Samshvildé (1110) and Rustavi (1115), the fortress of Gishi (1117) and the town of Loré (1118).
The Kingdom of Georgia made intensive preparations for a decisive battle aimed at liberating Tbilisi. In the War of Thrialeti, in 1110 Georgian King David IV, with 1500 (fifteen hundred! not thousand) beat the Seljuks with an army of 95000 (ninety five thousand! not hundred). In 1121 in the Didgori War with 55,000 (55 thousand) men (250 Crusaders among them) beat an army of 450,000 (450 thousand) Seljuks. (This army was supposed to go against Crusaders in Jerusalem, but the importance of destroying Georgia was incomparably greater). The battle was fought on 12 August, 1121 near Didgori, the Georgians winning a brilliant victory. In 1122 Tbilisi was incorporated into Georgia, and it again became the capital of Georgia (earlier Kutaisi was the capital).